When An Apology Proves You’ll Say Anything: Ed Schultz’s Amazing Mea Culpa

"Hey Ed! Your masks are showing!

After MSNBC had announced that it was suspending Ed Schultz for a week without pay for calling conservative talk-show host Laura Ingraham a “slut” on his syndicated radio show, its boorish left-wing star delivered an on-air apology. Schultz certainly seemed sincere and contrite, saying solemnly that his “vile and inappropriate language” was wrong and uncalled for.  “I am deeply sorry, and I apologize,” he said. “I apologize to you, Laura, and ask for your forgiveness…It doesn’t matter what the circumstances were. It doesn’t matter that it was on radio and I was ad-libbing. None of that matters. None of that matters. What matters is what I said was terribly vile and not of the standards that I or any other person should adhere to…..And I have been in this business since 1978, and I have made a lot of mistakes. This is the lowest of low for me. I stand before you tonight in front of this camera in this studio in an environment that I absolutely love. I love working here. I love communicating with all of you on the radio and the communication that I have with you when I go out and do town hall meetings and meet the people that actually watch. I stand before you tonight to take full responsibility for what I said and how I said it, and I am deeply sorry.

“My wife is a wonderful woman,” Ed continued, getting emotional. “We have a wonderful family. And with six kids and eight grandkids, I try to set an example. In this moment, I have failed. And I want you to know that I talked to my sons especially about character and about dignity and about the truth. And I tell you the truth tonight that I am deeply sorry and I tell them every day that they have to live up to standards if they want to be a successful human being in life. And I have let them down. I have never been in this position before to the point where it has affected so many people. And I know that I have let a lot of people down….

“To the staff here at MSNBC, I apologize for embarrassing the company and the only way that I can really make restitution for you is to give you a guarantee, and the only way that I can prove my sincerity in all of this is if I never use those words again. Tonight, you have my word that I won’t. Laura Ingraham, I am sorry. Very sorry….”

Schultz earned immediate accolades across the media spectrum for his mea culpa, as commentators praised his heartfelt regret and contrition as well as the unequivocal phrasing of the apology.

They must not have been tuned in to his radio show just a few hours earlier the same day, when Schultz’s tone and sentiments were  markedly different when addressing the same  audience that had heard him use that “vile language” against Ingraham the day before:

“OK, let me give you a classic [example?]of how this all works. This is how it works. Now in recent days, we have had Rush Limbaugh talk about, you know, Arnold Schwarzenegger and drowning the maid in relationship to the Kennedys. They get away with that, OK? Uh, Sean Hannity can refer to John Kerry’s wife as a scumbag during the campaign. Fair enough? I think it is. So now the right wing is trying to gin up this story that I have called Laura Ingraham a slut. I referred to her as a talk slut.  Which, by the way, I got some email, people agreed with me on it. It’s a war out there! It’s a cultural war is what we have in America. Uh, if I offended some women out there, I apologize. Now what Laura Ingraham was talking about was going after President Obama for having a beer, and she’s not the only one, this other dude on Fox was talking about it too, going after President Obama for having a beer overseas when there’s a tornado going on in the United States.

“Now I believe it’s almost becoming a tradition that when you go to Ireland, I believe it was Ronald Reagan that did the same thing. So in the heat of the moment and the passion of it all, I guess I used a term that has got the Michelle Malkins of the world upset. And we all know that she is an honest broker when it comes to fair vernacular in the arena of debate and politics.  OK? But I just want to make sure that if there are any ladies out there who were offended that I used that term, I do apologize, I didn’t mean to offend you. I did refer to Laura Ingraham as a talk slut.

“Now, does she walk the streets? No, I know she doesn’t. Is she a slut in the terms of whoring around? No, but I used it as a term that I think it’s low rent for her to go down that road and describe our president when it’s been paralleled in the past, the behavior of a president overseas, does just that. I thought it was low rent. My terminology was wrong, I should not have done it, and I certainly do not think that she is of that level of character, OK? I hope [makes kissing sound] everybody on the right wing is happy now!

“But seriously, lefties, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s like there’s a different standard. Now, are you going to catch Rush Limbaugh apologizing for what he said to the Kennedy, about the Kennedy family about how Schwarzenegger couldn’t be related to the Kennedys because if he was he would have taken the maid and drowned her? Now that kind of stuff is fair game, right, for them. This is why the Michelle Malkins of the world have no credibility whatsoever.  But they will try to bring whatever pressure they possibly can on lefty talkers! We’re not allowed the license of passion of the moment. We’re not allowed the license of saying something that might be somewhat off-color but not intended to be offensive to the group but maybe depicting of one.

“So, uh, and I don’t know Laura Ingraham, I don’t hang out with the right-wing talkers, I don’t even go to their conventions, I believe I told you that yesterday. I don’t like being around them. I think they’re trying to destroy the country. Look at what they are doing to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. Look what they’ve called the president. Look how they’ve given us record number of filibusters and supported it on talk radio, I don’t like any of them. I admit it! I’m guilty! I don’t like ’em! But I don’t think she’s a slut.”

Remarkable! In just a few short hours, Ed Schultz had a complete epiphany, and could sincerely and honestly say what he said to the MSNBC audience, so soon after sending up an array of rationalizations for his words in the afternoon!

For the record, here were Ed’s rationalizations and other attempts to duck accountability:

1. I’m not the only one who talks like that. (“Everybody does it!”)

2.There’s nothing wrong with talking like that. (“I didn’t break any rules!”)

3. It’s a double standard. (“It’s unfair to punish me if you don’t punish them.”)

4. The only ones complaining are the bad guys! ( The cognitive dissonance maneuver)

5. If you were offended, I’m sorry. (The non-apology apology)

6. I didn’t mean it literally. ( The innocent joke excuse)

7. These are bad people, and deserve what they get. ( “They had it coming.”)

What had become of these by the time Schultz delivered his MSNBC plea for forgiveness? You know what, and so do I. MSNBC told him that if he couldn’t do better than his radio performance that day, he wasn’t coming back to the cable network, ever. Schultz was smart enough to figure out what his bosses wanted to hear, and a good enough actor to make it sound sincere.

And keep his job.

I think his inconsistent apologies, rather than his crude insult to Ingraham, are cause for MSNBC to fire Schultz, because it shows that he lacks integrity and honesty, and integrity and honesty are the only justifications for having someone of his limited abilities on television at all. Ed isn’t attractive, witty, amusing, incisive, original, articulate, analytical, civil or fair. The only possible reason to watch or listen to a sneering-head like Ed Schultz is if you detest conservatives and enjoy hearing someone attack them, right or wrong, and who doesn’t pull his punches and says what he thinks, consequences be damned.

Schultz’s sincerity generally has always been in question. The integrity of any pundit who has swung from one ideological extreme to the other in adulthood is suspect. Schultz, who once was as vociferous in his right-wing venom as he is now from the Angry Left, resides in a strange category of turncoats with Ariana Huffington, David Horowitz, David Brock and a few others who awoke up one morning to find their political poles reversed, often because of who woke up next to them. Were they posing before, or are they posing now? Was their transformation dictated by a market opportunity, or by a sudden bolt of moral clarity? Might they switch back tomorrow, if the price is right or the winds change? Who knows?

What we learned from Schultz’s convincing performance in his MSNBC apology is that he’s a talented actor, which adds another reason not believe his words or his passion, no matter what his supposed opinion may be for the consumption of his fans.

Ed Schultz’s masterful apology didn’t prove he was sorry. It proved that he can’t be believed or trusted. That’s a great deal more significant than calling another talk show host a slut.

7 thoughts on “When An Apology Proves You’ll Say Anything: Ed Schultz’s Amazing Mea Culpa

  1. Great post, Jack. One teeny heads-up, though: In your itemization of Schultz’s ethics fouls, I think “object” should have read “objecting.” Other than that, you nailed it.

  2. I agree on the main points. The apology, while it looked great, only matters if the behavior follows. The behavior didn’t follow.

    More on topic with the original issue though, I think “talk slut” was taken a bit out of context. “X slut” is not the same thing as “slut” anymore. It has leaked into discourse as someone who is gungho for X.

    As an example, there was a girl I knew in college that was derogatorily known as “frisbee slut” for fooling around with half the frisbee team. There have also been numerous frisbee players I know (both male and female) who’ve been referred to as “frisbee sluts” for playing with multiple teams, or just attending every event possible. The first was, while accurate, pretty harsh. The second was accurate in a different way, and is not considered harsh.

    Talk slut, in reference to someone who just harps on whatever the talking points of the day are with no respect for validity, while crass, is understandable. Talk slut, in reference to her being female, and must thereby by a slut, is indefensible.

    • Which is relevant to my original post on Ed’s insult. I don’t know what standards MSNBC is trying to establish here. Ed’s first non-apology was pretty close to the mark, rationalizations excepted. There is so much gutter-level incivility being not only tolerated but encouraged, including many of Schultz’s previous comments about others, that the reaction to “slut” (he said both “Right Wing slut” and “talk slut,” which I agree with you on completely) was inconsistent at best.

      • I used “More on topic with the original issue though,” to mean “I’m jumping back to the other post that I didn’t really read well, but is now superceded by this post…”

        Agreement all around. Happy day!

  3. I tend to agree with you here… Ed has his moments, and his heart is in the right place, but he has a cringe factor that happens all too often where he totally either misses the mark, or just sticks to the standard 2 headed snake opposition to the bad bad republican / conservative one party / one media mind control system that is in place.
    I use slut all the time – it has become a hilarious, descriptive term. I am a food slut – just look at me. I’ll sleep with any meal, as long as it has molecular mass and sauce.

    A media slut is a descriptive term that can be used to describe any amount of characters that are on TV – the ones that readily pop into my head are Dick Morris and Karl Rove, who peddle their Pacs on Faux like televangelists. Pretty sad state of affairs – like everything going on in government right now… Very frustrating.

    • I have yet to find a woman who feels that the use of “slot” you correctly describe remains hilarious when applied to them. “Whore” is used the same way, but if Ed had said “Right Wing whore” the same reaction would have come down. You can call someone a “mental midget” but if you use the term to describe Robert Reich, I have no sympathy for you.

  4. This is pure sexism. Would anyone called a man a “dick” and gotten away with it? Pretty soon we’ll have the C-word applied to women with whom we disagree, right?

    Laura Ingraham is smarter than Schultz… It’s sad and infuriating that the best he could do was call her a sexist negative name. Only goes to show that when pushed to the wire, all our prejudices come out. Ugly, but true.

    Schultz should be fired. Clearly this is not a person who can put personal biases aside, and when he can find nothing else with which to attack a person, goes the prejudice route.

    What if he had called Obama a “nigger?” And what’s the difference?

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